Mike Hoffman and the cost of improving Ottawa’s defense

So you say you want a top-4 defenseman (or *gasp* two)? Cool. This makes a lot of sense. Ottawa’s sieve-like blueline has been a problem for a few years now (really since Zdeno Chara left, but who’s counting). The pairing of Jared Cowen and Mark Borowiecki have been predictably among the worst pairings in the league and unfortunately Cody Ceci and Patrick Wiercioch have modelled their current play on the example of 2 and 74. Don’t pine for Eric Gryba, if he was still here we’d be talking about having five defensemen who should be healthy scratches (an embarrassment of riches!). Even Erik Karlsson and Marc Methot haven’t hit their stride yet. Boro looks better playing on his natural side with Chris Wideman, who’s been decent, but this is more like that moment at the end of Titanic when Rose climbs on that door but Jack, despite his significant experience as a carefree outdoorsy American, somehow forgets that timeless lesson of how to climb on a dock with another person at the same time. Now one problem pairing is being kept afloat, but the water is still rising on another.

We don’t need more life jackets, we need some lifeboats (or not to hit the iceberg in the first place but you know). I’m not really one for trade speculation. I’m not into prospects for much the same reason. I’ll talk about them from time to time, but those things are beyond my control and not the most productive use of my time (but if you’re into it, cool, and Trevor at S7 had some potential targets). Still, this problem has lingered for so long that it’s now a common topic of discussion between me and industry experts (it’s Luke, I talk to Luke about this a lot). I’m all for trading for a top-6 forward if it improves on our current top-6, I’m a fan of the ‘improving the team is improving the team’ school of thought, though I’d still prefer this improvement happens on defense first.

The thing is, it’s going to cost a lot to get the necessary improvement. There are lots of teams looking for top-4 defensemen and few teams with a surplus of quality blueliners (maybe St. Louis, Calgary and Anaheim have suggested they’re willing to deal). Yes, there are still holdouts like Boston who don’t seem to think quality defensemen are something you want to stockpile, but generally, the league is starting to value these guys a lot more, both in terms of salary and trade value.

My point is, if your hypothetical trade packages hinges on Curtis Lazar being bankable, Jared Cowen’s involvement, or a depth player like Zack Smith, it’s not likely to fly. Maybe Cody Ceci and PW are appealing to another team, but neither player is going to get Ottawa a top-4 defenseman. Everyone’s forgotten about Colin Greening. Picks are an option, but given how the Sens misjudged their playoff chances after the Bobby Ryan trade, not sure they go this route. Shane Prince might be interesting as part of a larger deal, but it’s a reach to suggest a top-4 player for him. It’s hard to imagine another GM getting excited about Matt Puempel or most if not all the players, currently in Bingo. It’s not that they’re all bad (though that Bingo blueline is thin), it’s that other organizations are full of similar players/prospects. Nobody’s as high on Freddie Claesson and Tobias Lindberg as the Sens organization, that’s how these things go.

It’s going to take Mike Hoffman. I mean, maybe not Mike Hoffman, it could be Mika Zibanejad or Mark Stone (but not really because he is locked up for another two years on an affordable deal, the organization understandably loves him, and he’s a golden god), but it’s going to be a player who already has some decent NHL numbers, is youngish, and still has potential upside. So, no, not Milan Michalek. Hoffman makes the most sense because the organization, for whatever ill-conceived reason, doesn’t seem to value him as much as those other guys. Hoffman’s good, generates offense, has a terrific shot, and has a cheap deal that can easily fit into a lot of budgets, even at this point in the season (seriously, $2 million). He’s not the perfect option as he’s not locked up beyond this season but that’s not a huge problem as he’s still an RFA at the end of the year. He’s not a player you want to lose if you’re the Sens, but it’s probably going to cost a lot to sign him to his next deal and the blueline situation is critical.

If you don’t want to give up a player of value like Hoffman, trade with Colorado I guess. Joe Sakic and Patrick Roy are real winners.

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One thought on “Mike Hoffman and the cost of improving Ottawa’s defense

  1. Pingback: Your Half-Assed Guide to Improving Your Defense at Discount Prices |

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